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OLLARA: Open Source Electronic Resource Management

While at Computers in Libraries, I was lucky enough to run across a Cyber Tour session on a brand-new, open source Electronic Resource Management (ERM) tool, OLLARA. I’ve been contemplating ERM design for the last several months, with an eye to how to integrate one into Koha, so it was very encouraging to see a library conceptualize, develop and release one that does most of what I’d been thinking right out of the box. OLLARA was released less than a week ago (April 8, 2010), after 8-9 months of development, by Rick Bearden and Emily Mitchell from Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education at Ferris State University.

OLLARA provides libraries with an easy way to manage organize and track their databases and electronic resource packages. It tracks licensing and acquisitions information, as well as trouble tickets. The functionality is derived from the recommendations of the Electronic Resources Management Initative, giving it a solid, standards-based pedigree. According to the documentation, it was based on University of Wisconsin-La Crosses’ ERMes.

There are three levels of login: guest, staff and admin, each with their own permissions. Guests can view packages, and submit tickets. Staff can edit packages and vendor information, like admin, statistics, SUSHI and holdings URLs and passwords. Administrators can manage the user permissions and configurations.

You can track each package’s cost history, current status (active/inactive), and licensing restrictions. Dropdown menus allow you to select what actions (like ILL or offsite access) are permissible. Unlimited notes are also built in, good for those inevitable oddball contract terms. You’ve also got completely user-configurable departments, fund codes and menu names, so you can match the configurations and descriptive language to your way of doing business.

OLLLARA does not currently support holdings and coverage data, which to some may only make it half an ERM. A library would need to keep a manual holdings database, or use a service like Ex Libris’ SFX or Serials Solutions.Fortunately, looking at the available package fields, it looks like forging a connection between OLLARA and a knowledge base would be pretty straightforward to do. Further, since the ERM does not extend to the title/issue level, licenses with variable terms per item cannot be easily captured. Libraries with such complex licensure would need to make extensive use of Notes to keep track of all the additional restrictions, or provide a link to a vendor-provided page that explains them all.

From a developer standpoint, I like OLLARA’s clean design and excellent documentation (well-written with plenty of screenshots). Not only does it do what it sets out to do, but it does so in a way that can be easily understood and built upon. It runs on a LAMP stack, with the ‘P’ being PHP in this case. The database is in 3rd Normal Form, for those who care about their relational database scheme’s correctness, and the full table map is available for download on the frontpage. Adding new functionality like holdings coverages, automated SUSHI harvesting or tighter ILS/OPAC integration will be much easier because of this foresight.

I want to thank Emily and Rick for not only writing this tool, but releasing it open source and presenting it to the library community. I’m very excited about the possibilities for OLLARA integration with Koha, and for working together in truly open source fashion to make both codebases even better.

[tags]ollara, cil10, cil2010[/tags]

[Originally posted by Ian Walls]

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Tags cil2010